Nalini Sathiakumar, MD, DrPH

Ryals 523D

Nalini Sathiakumar is an occupational epidemiologist and pediatrician whose research interests include cancer and infectious diseases epidemiology. Her current research activities include epidemiologic studies of workers in the rubber industry, plastics industry and of workers at a chemical manufacturing facility.


Research Projects


  • A follow-up study of women in the synthetic rubber industry (Sathiakumar, PI):

This research funded by the International Institute of Synthetic Rubber Producers, Inc., is in its third year. Workers in this industry are exposed to a number of chemicals with concern about toxic effects focusing on 1,3-butadiene (BD) and styrene, monomers used to produce styrene-butadiene rubber, the shortstop dimethyldithiocarbamate (DMDTC), to the solvent benzene and to other chemicals used in making styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR). We have assembled and analyzed epidemiologic data on about 17,000 men, the largest cohort to date, potentially exposed to BD and styrene in the synthetic rubber industry. Our data indicate that these men have an excess of leukemia that is likely to have been due to exposure to BD or BD plus other chemicals. There are no previous epidemiologic studies of women in the synthetic rubber industry. At some of the plants, women accounted for a large proportion of laboratory staff, with potentially high exposure to BD. Also, experimental studies have shown that BD produces mammary tumors in the female mouse and rat and ovarian tumors in the female rat. Thus, this project is not only be first study focused on women in the synthetic rubber industry but also will enhance the informativeness of our previous epidemiologic investigation of male synthetic rubber workers. Information from the two studies may be useful for risk assessment and regulatory actions by state and federal agencies in the United States (US) and by agencies in other countries. The study also will be useful in evaluating further the role of styrene and DMDTC in human carcinogenesis.

  • Cancer risk assessment of 1,3-butadiene and additional analysis of peak exposures (Sathiakumar, PI):

Supported by the Olefins Panel of the American Chemistry Council, this study entails conducting additional analysis of our data on mortality among men employed in the synthetic rubber industry, with a focus on a cancer risk assessment for 1,3-butadiene (BD) and analyses of peak BD exposures using alternate threshold levels.

  • A review of epidemiological studies on atrazine and other chlorotriazine herbicides (Sathiakumar, PI):

This research funded by Syngenta, will update a review of epidemiologic studies pertaining to atrazine or other chlorotriazine herbicides and cancer previously done by us in 2002. Most epidemiologic research relating to this topic has focused on evaluating the possible relation between exposure to triazines as a class of chemicals or exposure to atrazine (the most common triazine compound) and certain forms of cancer. A few studies have considered other triazine compounds (cyanazine and simazine).

  • International training and research in environmental and occupational health (Sathiakumar, PI):

This project funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH)-Fogarty International Center is a training program that is a collaborative effort between the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and the Aga Khan University (AKU) in Karachi, Pakistan. The purpose of this initiative is to strengthen and sustain, through collaborative research and training, the capability of Pakistani scientists to contribute to environmental and occupational-related health research in the region. To do this, we have designed a program of training that will prepare scientists in Pakistan and in other countries in the region to address issues pertaining to environmental and occupational health hazards in their countries and to participate effectively in research that addresses